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See Enceladus set behind Saturn and Cassini's last view of the ringed planet

The Cassini mission to Saturn may be over, but scientists and the rest of humanity will be poring over images from the spacecraft for years to come.

Below is the very last picture Cassini took of Saturn as it sped toward the planet at 76,000 miles per hour:

Cassini's final image of Saturn.
Cassini's final image of Saturn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Full coverage of Cassini's Grand Finale »

Mission scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said they have a pretty good idea of where their beloved spacecraft was when it burned up in the atmosphere.

The spot is marked by the white ellipse:

This montage of images, made from data obtained by Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, shows the location on Saturn where the NASA spacecraft entered Saturn's atmosphere.
This montage of images, made from data obtained by Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, shows the location on Saturn where the NASA spacecraft entered Saturn's atmosphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

One of Cassini’s most important — and surprising — discoveries during its 13 years at Saturn was that the moon Enceladus has an ocean of liquid saltwater beneath its frozen surface. That ocean is heated by hydrothermal vents, similar to those found on Earth.

Scientists are eager to return to Enceladus as they search for evidence that life could exist elsewhere in the solar system. On Friday, mission leaders vowed to send a spacecraft to the icy moon.

They also shared this movie of Enceladus setting behind Saturn. The images were taken on Wednesday.

Saturn's active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus sinks behind the giant planet in a farewell portrait from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.
Saturn's active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus sinks behind the giant planet in a farewell portrait from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

karen.kaplan@latimes.com

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MORE ON THE CASSINI MISSION

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Check out Cassini’s jaw-dropping discoveries of Saturn’s moons

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